Keeping kids online safe

Yesterday I met with a few Symantec executives. They’ll have some cool stuff out over the next few weeks that we can talk about. But yesterday I spent a bunch of time with Jody Gibney who is responsible for the Norton Internet Security product line talking about how to prepare and educate kids about how to safely behave online. It’s nice to see companies are finally moving away from just being a spy on your kids. Parents who assume they can keep their kids from seeing “bad” stuff online are totally uninformed. Now that kids are bringing iPhones to school that era is over. Get over it. Your kids WILL probably see porn or other sites you’d rather they not visit.

The new way to keep kids safe isn’t to try to block them from going to nasty sites: it’s all about educating them about what is good behavior and is bad. Anyway, Jody told me that educators are now seeing the real threats are the kids own friends. They are brutal, she told me, and are doing all sorts of nasty stuff online that could harm reputations for years. Remember, Google sees all but it is selective about what it sees. Ten kids can group together, create a fake online page with your sons name on it, and do a lot of harm. It’s a world I never even considered. I always thought that the threats would be porn or some weird old dude trying to exploit my son.

It gets worse, though, because tonight MSN reported that 51% of kids surf online unsupervised and that 29% had been bullied.

So, how do you protect your kids about that? You talk with them, Jody told me. She and Symantec are developing tools after talking with both kids and parents to try to help them do just that — talk about what’s good behavior online.

So, let’s start. What kind of threats to today’s kids are you seeing? How are you handling it at home?


Twitter Client War: Twhirl vs. TweetDeck

Last night Loic Le Meur released a new version of Twhirl.

How does it compare to TweetDeck?

“Scoble, you’re using some weird language here.”

Yeah, if you aren’t a Twitter addict you can skip this post.

So, why compare just TweetDeck to Twhirl? Especially when there are dozens of tools to use with Twitter?

Because I listen to the people who I am following and these are the two I see getting discussed all the time. If you want me to review another tool well, get more people to talk about it!

So, anyway, now that we’ve covered my gatekeeping function, why choose one tool over another?

TweetDeck appeals to those who have to watch Twitter all day long. Journalists. Customer support people who’ve been tasked with making sure that everyone on Twitter is happy. And addicts like me.

TweetDeck is a dominant mode app. It takes over your entire screen. I have it running on an old MacBookPro that is toward the end of its life (had the crud beat out of it) and that’s all that machine does: run TweetDeck. It has several columns. The first on my screen shows all my friends that I’m following. The second shows me replies from people who put “@scobleizer” into their Tweets. The third has direct messages that are sent specifically to me. The fourth has a search for “Scoble.” Fifth has a search for “Scobleizer.” Hey, I’m an egotistical baaahhhhssssttttaaarrrrdddd, so sue me. But then the next few columns are things that are interesting to me “Cloud Computing.” “Google.” “TechCrunch.” “Ted.”

You can see how that would be useful for, say, someone who worked at a big company and needed to track everything said about her company, her competitors, and the space her company works in.

I’ve got to admit, I use TweetDeck more often because I like the layout of columns and the fact that it takes over my whole screen.

So, now we come to Twhirl. First, you should know that Twhirl was purchased by Seesmic, which is a video conversation tool. So that’s one thing you’ll notice right away about Twhirl: it’s the best way to do Seesmic videos.

Twhirl also has more features than Tweetdeck. It sends messages to, for instance, which will redistribute your Tweets onto other services like friendfeed and facebook.

Lots of people will like the fact that Twhirl looks more like an IM client window and does NOT take over your whole desktop.

So, which one do you like the best?

Google Making Powerful Moves

Google has been doing a lot of stuff for us lately. Last week Google shipped “Latitude” which lets you track your friends and lets them track you (at least if you have a phone that works with the service — my Nokia N95 worked, but my iPhone is not yet supported). I used it with Microsoft’s Jeff Sandquist last Thursday as I was meeting him for breakfast and he said he could see my icon moving closer to him and knew exactly when I would walk through the door for breakfast. I find that kind of technology pretty fun and useful. I know lots of other people are thinking “privacy problem” too, but Google lets you decide who gets to stalk you. In fact they designed it so that it would only work with your closest friends. I, of course, opened it up to the world, and quickly added more than 200 people. That promptly caused it to crash on starting up, which made it totally useless for me. The team wrote me and said they’ll fix that bug in next release.

Then, also last week those smart people at Google released eBooks onto iPhone. More than a million public domain books are now readable on your iPhone. That’s pretty cool, although I still can’t see reading long books on my iPhone. That’s why I ordered the Amazon Kindle 2.0. It’ll be interesting to compare the two, that’s for sure.

Yesterday Google announced that it is bringing power to the people and is making a bunch of services to track and manage electricity usage, both in your home and your business. That’s an effort that’s a little further out than the other stuff I’m talking about here, but will probably have a huge impact on our power bills as we get devices (and solar panels) that can use energy at more efficient and cost-effective times.

But the one thing that hasn’t gotten a whole lot of hype yet is already the most useful for me. Google now is syncing my calendar and my contacts onto my iPhone thanks to Google Sync. It would also work with Windows Mobile and a few other phones.

I loaded this up last night and it’s magical. No longer do I have to hook up my iPhone to sync up my calendars. I set it up, which was just a touch geeky, required going into my iPhone’s email settings and following some directions. It’s a bit scary, because they say your contacts will go away. They do, so make sure you have them backed up. But I trusted in the Google and within a few seconds I had all my contacts from Gmail and all my calendars from Google Calendar all synced up. I already had other ways of syncing up my Outlook with Gmail and Google Calendar. So, now my life is all synced up and I’m happy. You can see how it is going for other users over on friendfeed in this discussion about Google’s new sync.

Thank you Google for all the fun stuff. What are you going to release in the next week? 🙂